Consulting Indigenous communities to preserve a unique ecosystem: a first time in Chile

Captura de pantalla 2017-10-11 a las 11.02.14

In September 2017, The Rapa Nui people agreed with the Chilean Environment Ministry on the creation of a 700,000 square kilometer protected marine area around Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean.

Due to its location, Easter Island’s ecosystem has unique coral species preserved by the traditional fishing practices that would be also protected. Chile has become one of the five countries with the largest area of marine space protected in the world.

The Environment Ministry, Marcelo Mena, introduced the agreement as part of the commitments of Chile with the community:

“it was the first time indigenous people had been consulted over the creation of a marine area in Chile.”

Overall, 642 Rapanui people voted on this unique consultation to create this area which will be administrated by 6 Rapanui representatives and 5 Chilean Government representatives.

In an interview with the Chilean Newspaper La Tercera, PokiTaneHaoa, Rapanui local leader, highlighted that the protected area would allow them not only to manage their territory but also to fight against illegal fishing and consequent loss of biodiversity. All relevant decisions regarding the sea area around the island will be overseened by its inhabitants.

As included in the Minority Rights Organization directory, indigenous people in Chile include the Mapuche, Ayamara, and the Rapanui people among others. According to the 2012 census, more than 1.7 million Chileans self-identified as indigenous: 88% as Mapuche, followed by 7% as Amara and 5% other smaller groups.

In 2007, Chile adopted the United Declaration on Indigenous Rights and, in 2008, it ratified Convention 169 of the ILO on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples which guaranteed rights to education, property, consultation and self-determination. The same year Chile adopted an indigenous policy called “Recognition: Social Pact for Multiculturalism (Re-conocer: Pacto Social por la Multiculturalidad”. In 2016, a Presidential Advisory Commission was set up with the purpose of preparing proposals in the areas of regional and territorial development and participation of indigenous communities[1].

As part of the conclusions of the Working Group on Sustainability and Shared Societies convened by the Club de Madrid through its Shared Societies Project, society and the environment, together with the economy, have been identified as the three pillars of sustainable development. Given that, this Working Group underline that “meaningful participation by all stakeholders is viable and can ensure more sustainable decision making: some are the continuation of traditional practices, some are part of devolution of local government by the state; and some are situations in which local people have taken control of their own affairs.” As a core element of the Shared Society concept “the ability of indigenous peoples not only to maintain their own cultural context but also to fulfil their responsibilities to future generations, demonstrates the significance of their own local government systems.”



[1] OECD (2017), Making Decentralisation Work in Chile. Towards Stronger Municipalities, Multi-Level Governance Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris.

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